Gambone: From all-nighter to all-right

"Without really realizing it, time had gone by and I was in college. I thought that now that I’d achieved my goal of making it into college, it would be my time to have fun and relax. Unsurprisingly, the opposite happened." - Photo via Pixabay

Since I first started school, I have always been told the importance of having good grades and doing good in my classes. This meant enrolling in all honors courses, which came with honors-level coursework. I remember staying in for the night to catch up on reading and my assignments, and at the time the prospect of going to college was what motivated me and made me feel like I was missing out today to make a better future for tomorrow. On the rare occasion that I did go out, I would make a mental checklist of all the work I was missing and how long it might take me to get it all done before I went to bed that night.

Without really realizing it, time had gone by and I was in college. I thought that now that I’d achieved my goal of making it into college, it would be my time to have fun and relax. Unsurprisingly, the opposite happened. What once was a voice saying “You’ve got to do this to get into college” evolved into thoughts revolving around internships, my future career, student loans, and making sure my resume reflects that of a well-rounded and committed student.

During that first year, I thought doing anything that was not school-related would be my downfall. Pursuing my degree went from something I was very passionate about to something that brought me more distress than anything else ever has. This led me to take a gap year between my freshman and sophomore year of college. Deciding to take that break was a very hard decision for me to make, but during that time I learned so much. I learned what I really wanted to major in, time management, and most importantly the importance of taking a break.

Taking breaks is not just okay to do, but it’s necessary to keep you on track. When all you do is work, work, work, eventually you forget what it is you’re really working for. While prioritizing your education is important, if that’s all you think about you’re really stripping yourself of having a fun college experience. Taking an afternoon or an evening to hang out with friends or to catch up on a new season of your favorite show does not make you less motivated or serious about your degree by any means. Making time for hobbies or “unproductive” activities helps you relax, get a fresh mind, and actually helps you work better. Putting your work down and coming back to it later allows for you to look at it again with a different perspective, and helps it seem less monstrous. When you take these breaks, actually being in the moment and enjoying what you’re currently doing is the most important thing. If you’re at a diner with your friends but thinking about all the work you should be doing, you’re not really enjoying your time.

You might be thinking ‘”That’s easier said than done” but hopefully my tips can help you
see that taking breaks is a possibility.

Firstly, having a calendar or planner is super important. Writing down everything that
needs to be done, class meeting times and your work schedule allow for you to have a visual
display of what your week looks like. When I came back to school I bought a dry-erase wall calendar, and it was a complete game changer. Planning out a set time to go out and not be focused on work taught me how to trust myself better, and allowed me to be more focused when it came time to do my work.

Secondly, mindfulness is a skill that has helped me immensely. Mindfulness is defined as living in the present moment. It’s difficult at first to allow yourself to not be worried about everything that needs to get done, but if you think about it simply as ‘worrying about where your feet are’ then that helps you begin practicing this skill. This is a skill that I am still working on every day, but it’s honestly the most effective coping mechanism I have ever learned. If you’re taking a break but thinking about all you’ll be doing after the break, then you’re not really taking a break. There are hundreds of online resources and tips that help you hone this skill. If there’s nothing I can do about what’s worrying me, I make it a point to take a deep breath, try to relax, and focus on what’s going on in front of me.

Hopefully, my experience and advice will help you with your college journey and even later on. Making time for things you enjoy, even as responsibilities mount and the stakes seem higher, actually helps you do better not just in school but in anything else you choose to do. Actively deciding when you’re going to take a break and then actually enjoying that break will help you stay on track and will actively reduce your stress and anxiety. So, take a break: watch your favorite shows, hang out with friends, or maybe even watch your shows with your favorite friends! This isn’t just about taking time off; it’s about coming back to your work feeling refreshed and ready to knock it out of the park.

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